If there’s a way to be nationally ranked, yet fly under the radar, the UNLV baseball team has managed to do just that. Lost in March Madness nationally and in the university’s own version locally, as the school worked to keep men’s basketball coach Dave Rice from leaving, the Hustlin’ Rebels are having a tremendous season under fourth-year coach Tim Chambers.
On Monday, UNLV baseball worked its way into a third national poll, checking in at No. 25 in the Collegiate Baseball News rankings. The same day, the Rebels were ranked 16th by Perfect Game and 20th by Baseball America. UNLV is 25-12 overall and 13-5 in the Mountain West, and the squad is taking on all comers. Last week, the Rebels traveled to No. 24 Arkansas of the baseball-mad Southeastern Conference and pulled out a two-game split.
On Tuesday, UNLV got tripped up at Arizona State 5-2, but there’s no shame in losing to the Sun Devils, a perennial national power.
To those who know baseball in Southern Nevada, UNLV’s revival should come as no surprise. Mr. Chambers guided Bishop Gorman High School and American Legion teams to great success in the 1990s, then built College of Southern Nevada into a junior college powerhouse, winning a national title in 2003 and reaching the national semifinals in 2010 (a squad that featured Bryce Harper, now a star with the Washington Nationals).
He took over at UNLV in 2011, and last year led the team to a 37-20 overall mark — its most wins since 2004. Greater still, as he did with CSN, Mr. Chambers has built a roster teeming with local talent. This year, 15 players have Southern Nevada ties, nearly half the 33-player squad.
Don’t be surprised if the Hustlin’ Rebels reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. Kudos to Coach Chambers and his hard-working group of players.